For several years now, the number of gluten-free options that
have been popping up in grocery stores has been increasing at a
rapid rate. On the one hand, I find this to be really exciting,
because both my cousin and one of my best friends suffer from
celiac disease. But when I see any number of un-afflicted people
buying gluten-free pasta and baked goods as part of their latest
diet trend, I just get frustrated (to be fair, most fad-diets
frustrate me-I have a dietician mother).
Celiac disease is a serious auto immune disorder that results
in damage to the small intestinal lining when gluten is consumed.
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye, as
well as an additive in a number of processed foods. The only way to
treat Celiac disease is through
maintenance of a careful diet that is devoid of all traces of
gluten. This used to be incredibly difficult but has become easier
in recent years. As mentioned, the options for those eating
gluten-free have skyrocketed recently, and so has the number of
people who are trying to eat gluten-free to lose weight or because
They Myth of Eating Gluten Free and Weight
Unfortunately, like with most fad diets, just cutting something
out of your diet is not likely to yield weight loss. However, many
people have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon to do just that.
This myth probably arises from the fact that
eating naturally gluten-free foods, like fruits, vegetables and
lean meats, is nutrient rich and lower in calories than gluten-full
carbohydrates and processed foods. However, with the abundance
of gluten-free foods now available in the supermarkets, most people
don't choose the natural, whole foods and instead go with the more
fun packaged gluten-free foods. Unfortunately, these foods, lacking
gluten (which is what holds bread together and makes it chewy), are
held together with oils, butter and eggs-making them high in
fat! Because many whole grains are off the table when it comes
to a gluten-free diet, the nutritional value of these gluten-free
processed foods is greatly diminished.
The basic rule of weight loss stands: burn more calories than
you take in by watching what you eat and exercising regularly.
"Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity"
"Wait!" you may say. "I think I'm sensitive to gluten." If you
think that gluten may be a problem for you, talk to your doctor to
get tested for celiac disease. If you eliminate gluten from your
diet before the test, you may get a false negative result.
Eliminating only some gluten can still cause damage to your
intestines if you have celiac disease. However, after people
who tested negative for celiac disease claimed to feel better after
cutting gluten from their diet, a condition called "non-celiac
gluten sensitivity," sometimes called "gluten intolerance" was
termed. The existence of such a condition was largely confirmed,
although still up for debate, after a
study published in 2011 by Peter Gibson that provided evidence for
gluten intolerance. This provided credibility to the already
popular gluten-free diet! His original study was double-blinded,
randomized, and placebo controlled, but Dr. Gibson was not
satisfied with the results, so he conducted an even more rigorous
experiment, recently published, on participants who all met the
diagnostic criteria for non-celiac gluten sensitivity. There were
three branches of the trial-a placebo, a low-gluten diet, and a
high-gluten diet. In the end, Gibson concluded that,
"In contrast to our first study… we could find absolutely no
specific response to gluten." Furthermore, they found that FODMAPS-difficult to
digest carbohydrates, may be the true culprit. FODMAPs are found in
many of the same foods as gluten, which can sometimes mean that
following a gluten-free diet also cuts out FODMAPs, but this
doesn't mean that the relief one may find from this diet is due to
a lack of gluten itself.
If you're having intestinal discomfort and believe your diet may
be to blame, talk with your doctor or dietician to see about
getting tested. If you decide to go gluten-free, don't do it for
weight-loss reasons, and make sure you know what
gluten is before you jump on the bandwagon.